Special Olympics Pennsylvania to celebrate 50 years of Summer Games on June 6-8

June 03, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Special Olympics Pennsylvania (SOPA) will return to Penn State’s University Park campus this June to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the annual Summer Games. Over 2,000 athletes from across the state will come together to compete across eight sports in a celebration of half a century of empowering athletes with intellectual disabilities. Penn State has hosted the event on campus for 32 consecutive years.

“The athletes work very hard throughout the year in local and sectional events, which culminates at the state level in the Summer Games,” said Teresa Amaturo, SOPA central competition director. “This is something that helps build lasting friendships, and the athletes always look forward to coming back year after year to see each other.”

View the full schedule of events here.

SOPA is in need of local volunteers for a variety of roles to help make the games a success. To learn how you can get involved, visit the SOPA website.

50 years of empowering athletes

The first Summer Games consisted of a single sport — a track and field meet — held at West Chester University in 1970, with a total of 135 athletes. In the five decades since, the Summer Games have experienced incredible growth, touching the lives of thousands of athletes, families, coaches and volunteers across Pennsylvania.

Penn State is entering its 32nd year of partnership with SOPA to host the Summer Games on the University Park campus, a relationship Amaturo said has helped the games grow over the years.

“Our partnership with Penn State allows us to have a really great venue and gives us the opportunity to share some really amazing sports facilities with our athletes,” Amaturo said. “Having the games at Penn State means we can have more fields, more courts and bring more athletes here to this incredible event each year.”

The games begin on Thursday, June 6, with the traditional opening ceremonies, to be held this year in Pegula Ice Arena. The ceremony will feature special guests including remarks from Penn State President Eric J. Barron and performances from the State College Area High School Marching Band and Penn State performing arts club Harmony. The opening ceremony culminates with the lighting of the Olympic cauldron by a special torch called the Flame of Hope, which will be carried 150 miles over three days from Pittsburgh to University Park by law enforcement volunteers in the ninth annual “Be a Fan” Torch Run.

Competition will begin at 8 a.m. on Friday, June 7, in select locations across campus, with events in aquatics, athletics, basketball, equestrian, golf, gymnastics, softball and tennis. Friday will conclude with a family ice cream social and the formal Victory Dance in Pegula Ice Arena, which Amaturo said will have an especially celebratory atmosphere this year for the games’ 50th anniversary.

The games will conclude on Saturday, June 8, with final competitions and awards ceremonies between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. A full schedule of events can be found online.

Volunteers still needed

Volunteers are vital to the success of the Summer Games, Amaturo said, with volunteers playing many crucial roles, including assisting with athlete arrival and equipment teardown, as well as sports roles, including score keepers, timers and judges.

Anyone interested in volunteering can find more information and register on the SOPA website.

“It’s important to realize that every person deserves a place where they can compete, learn, and grow, and the Special Olympics have offered that and so much more to the athletes with intellectual disabilities of Pennsylvania,” Amaturo said.

“Whether it’s the ability to become an athlete leader, the health services we offer, or just the friendships these athletes make," he added, " the Special Olympics are so much more than just the sports.”

Last Updated June 21, 2019